They stop their hunt briefly to eat on the crest of a small ridge under a fir tree. Elliot takes up a position sitting crosslegged watching the valley below, his thick eyebrows knitted in thought.

“It reminds me of Lothering,” he says abruptly, tilting his head to one side.

Behind him, Carver chuckles quietly. “I was thinking that too. Something about the way the sun hits the grass…”

Elliot turns his head slightly, looking at his younger brother with cautious warmth. “Do you remember old Barlin – always on about trapping the bears eating his crops?”

Carver nods. “Father had us terrified of him. I think he was afraid we’d wander into one of his traps by accident,” he says dryly.

Elliot grins. “Wish we had him out here, eh? He’d have a wyvern trapped for us in no time!”

Carver laughs, and for a moment it’s like they’re boys together again, before all the weight came down on their heads. “Yes, but everything we brought with us would smell of cabbages for weeks,” he returns, snorting.

“Oh, Maker, he did smell like that, didn’t he,” Elliot answers, throwing his head back in a guffaw. “I forgot all about that. No wonder we never had him round. I think Mother–”

He stops laughing abruptly, looks down. Carver stops laughing too. A heavy silence falls, broken at last by Tallis, who is looking bemusedly between the two men. “I’m…going to go down the ridge a little, look for more sign.”

Carver stuffs the last of his meal hastily into his mouth. “No. Let’s just…let’s just move on.”


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